Bronislau Kaper

A Conversation with Bronislau Kaper by William F. Krasnoborski
Originally published in Soundtrack Magazine (SNC) No. 2 and No. 3/1975
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor, Luc Van de Ven

Bronislau KaperHaving once met him, it’s difficult to imagine a more gregarious Aquarius than Bronislau Kaper. He makes the ways others approach life seem desperate by comparison. He apparently rushes at it with an almost unbridled joy and enough enthusiasm for an entire corporation. All you need to have a party is Bronislau Kaper and someone else. His effervescence supplies the champagne.
His sharp, Slavic features are dominated by large, sparkling eyes and a broad smile serves as a vehicle for his often hearty laughter that erupts in infectious bursts. Kaper’s European flavored accent turns “th”‘s to “zeh”‘s and he speaks briskly. Facts filed over the years spill forward with little difficulty or hesitation. He’s an interesting combination of old world charm and the man of at least the present and maybe even the future; so youthful in appearance and manner, that at half his age I tended to feel twice his age of 70 years.

…When you were a young man…
You mean when I was a very young man. Because I feel like a young man now.

Well, of course, that’s taken for granted.
Naturally. Thank you.

…What were your aspirations musically when you finally decided this was what you wanted to do with your life?
My aspirations were not what I am doing – not what I was doing, you know. My aspirations were higher, to be a legitimate music composer. Maybe a concert pianist, which I gave up soon, but anyway it was not to write music for movies. As a matter of fact I graduated law in Warsaw.

Right.
Also you know it too? (Laughs). I’m afraid this whole interview is pointless, because I think you know more about me than I can remember because I found people who write books do so much research. They sing me sometimes themes from my scores which I forgot completely. It’s fantastic; I admire it really. Anyway, being from a bourgeois Polish-Jewish family in Warsaw I had to get higher education because this was the custom. You have to be either a lawyer or an engineer, or a doctor. Those were the three things. As a matter of fact it exists in the United States, this sense of a certain prejudice, you know.

I almost became an engineer.
You see! You know this famous story in America about the mother with the two boys – you know this story?

(Laughing) Oh yes, yes. She introduces them, “The seven-year-old is the lawyer and the nine-year-old is…”
…the doctor, yes. Is the same story. Anyway, to satisfy my father who after all spent money on my education, I graduated law. But at the same time I graduated conservatory you know. Piano and composition. Was very strenuous because at the same time when I graduated law, two weeks later I had to play Chopin concerto. I really never recovered from the strain… (Laughs).

I guess everything since has been gravy, right?
That’s right. Everything goes easy, yeah. I was not too much interested in university and fortunately I was a good student because things came easy. I was number one student in school, not in my class – in school. It was embarrassing because then I said, “Well, O.K., I’m going to continue,” like Paderewski story, you know. When Paderewski gave an interview and said to the reporters, “At the age of 35 I realized already I had no talent for piano at all.” So they said, “Why don’t you quit?”. He said, “It was too late. I was already famous.” I was not famous, but I was established number one student in school. And law was very easy for me too because I didn’t take it too seriously. I graduated at the age of twenty-two and a half. So I was really very well-educated at this age. I wish I could have retained some of this knowledge until today…

Did you start writing theatre music in Poland or when you went to Germany and France?
When I was in Poland I had to make some money so I was teaching. I was teaching mathematics, Latin… whatever I knew right away I taught somebody else, not to waste it. A friend of mine came to me and said, “Let’s write songs”. There were two cabarets in Warsaw, so we started writing songs. Every night we’d have to stand in front of the cabaret at the cashier to get paid royalties.

This was “B. A.” – “Before A. S. C. A. P.”
Before A.S.C.A.P.; that’s right! I started composing serious music at the conservatory. I had songs performed, piano music. I wrote what we called art songs, Lieder and all that. But then I decided it wasn’t enough, so I went to Berlin to continue. I thought in Berlin I will learn more, and I must say I learned a lot about theory and composition, but not about piano. I found that the level of piano playing in Poland was much higher than Berlin. As you can see today, the great pianists all come from Poland, play beautifully.
Now in the six years in Berlin I made what I would call a career in movies at composing. I became a very well known song writer in Berlin. I got into the picture business. I saw, Hitler in his Mercedes-Benz. I got married to a Russian girl. All in six years. It was fantastic. And I met in Berlin a very famous lyricist, Fritz Rotter, who you know wrote many, many big hits, ‘I Kiss Your Little Hand Madam’, ‘White Lilacs’… We became very close friends, started writing songs and became very successful. We used to publish two songs a day.

bronislau-kaperMy goodness!
Yes, yes. We wrote two songs, right away went to the publisher, and got an advance. We were driving a beautiful convertible Cadillac (that’s how successful he was) and I bought an apartment.
Then I met great singers like Richard Tauber for whom I wrote many, many songs for movies. And next break was with Jan Kiepura. The last movie I did in Berlin was with him. Already Hitler was looking at us, you know, and things were getting very hot. We sold everything and the day when I finished the last recording for the Kiepura picture, we left, went to Paris. And then in Paris I was lucky again, escape the bad things and the good things come.

What year was this now?
‘31, ‘30, ‘32… I don’t know. Don’t ask me about what year. I’m pretty dumb when it comes to this. I remember the tie people wear, or the glasses. Your frames I will remember… they look a little like mine. I started movies, one after another, then Louis B. Mayer came to Paris looking for bargains and found me because he heard this song I wrote for Kiepura, ‘Ninon, Smile At Me Again’; everywhere – Vienna, Paris, Berlin. So he figured, “Ah-hah!”.

A bargain.
He found me, I played for Mayer, he made some strange moves with his hands which I didn’t understand (I didn’t speak English!)… He cut his hand in two; he wanted to tell the other people who came with him that half my salary would be against my royalties. You know, one of these deals which later have been changed.
We (had) always talked about Hollywood. I never forget the idea we all had that everybody had a “bungalow”. It sounded so terribly exotic, you know. We all felt we were going to walk around in white helmets, in three-quarter shorts with canes in our hands.

And have luncheon outdoors on divans.
Yes, with Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable. I call Gable and say, “Hey, Clark! Come to lunch”, Garbo “What are you doing for tea?”. As a matter of fact before I went there two of my colleagues already went. Franz Waxman went before me. I forget who engaged him. I think Joe May, a director who came first to Hollywood and brought Billy Wilder with him. Joe May was a very strange man. Crazy, you know, but fabulous – a real genius in movies. One day Billy Wilder tells me that he got a wire from Joe May from Hollywood saying, “Come to Hollywood! To Universal Studios. Bring two cases Rose Anjou wine and three bidets!”. I’ll never forget it. Billy and I were in Cafe Select and he showed the wire to me. I just didn’t believe. I must tell you the truth; I didn’t know who Louis B. Mayer was, because Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was not known in Paris. We only knew two names: Paramount and Fox. Little we knew that MGM was the biggest! And Louis B. Mayer was…

The biggest still.
The biggest still. Yes, the biggest person in all… But I must say that Louis B. Mayer saved my life, my family. Because of him I was able later to bring my people from Poland, you know. Anyway the first six months were lovely, and Mayer was very nice. First we got a movie called ESCAPADE. Myrna Loy refused to play the part and Louise Rainer got it. Are you checking my credits? (Laughs, as I scan my notes).

There was a short called TWO HEARTS IN WAXTIME.
Is that the name of it? You see! I didn’t know that one short. I’ll never forget Escapade because in Europe you did everything; you had no money for specialists. You did the movie, you did the songs, you did the score, and you conducted it. Even so I don’t like to conduct. I never did.

Why not?
First of all when I came here I didn’t speak a word of English. Now, how do you convey to an orchestra what you want? It would be such a tremendous waste of time. I would have to look at this dictionary or have an interpreter, you know. It’s a terrible waste of time. Then I came to the conclusion that having a conductor concentrating on technique of conducting and catching the cues…

… Would free you.
Yes – I’m in one monitor booth and I’m listening at the same time to the music and to the dialogue, and I have a complete picture of the final result in dubbing. So when I come to the dubbing room, after having heard my music with the dialogue on the stage, and knowing the possibilities: How loud can I play it? Is this spot good?
I’d change sometimes when I’m sitting upstairs. If you conduct yourself and even if you play it back, you play it back loud because you want to impress yourself… and sometimes the producer. Also you have to play your music loud; because that’s the last time you hear it loud. There’s a story. You write a piece of music, and then you hear it with the orchestra. It’s fantastic. On the stage. So great. And then after this you go to the dubbing room…

And it’s nothing.
Nothing. So it starts with nothing and ends up with nothing. This way at least I know what’s going to happen. I don’t have any surprises, any heart attacks.

So you cut out that agonizing step.
That’s right. Also the results were better. I thought so. And I got used to this. And I know so many film conductors who are so much better than I. I’ve had terrific conductors in my movies. I had such people like Johnny Green, you know, and he was the head of the Music Department at MGM.

He’s also a wonderful composer but he’s done very little of that.
Unfortunately.

RAINTREE COUNTY is a wonderful score.
Wonderful! Fabulous score I It’s a very interesting story because I had a long conversation with John at his office and I told him that “… your problem is you don’t compose enough. You’re so busy being the executive head of the department that you, a composer, suddenly have an empty trunk. And I think this is very bad for you because you are a composer.” And he took it very, very deeply to heart — very seriously. And then he decided to and he asked for this picture and being the head of the department it wasn’t too difficult. And I think it is a marvellous score!
We talked about conducting because I said in Europe you had to do everything. Here, is specialists. And when I did the first short I wrote the songs for it because I wrote songs. Mr. Mayer signed me because of ‘Ninon’; he didn’t care about this other thing. So I started writing some incidental music. The head of the department called me and he said, “You’re crazy, it’s not your job. You’re a song writer. We have a scorer to do it.

The old American way of pidgeon-holing.
That’s right. Then, after a certain time they found out that I can write scores. So I would look over the script and started thinking of the score and I wrote the song because there was a scene in the bar. And they called me and said, “You’re crazy! You’re a scorer. We get a song writer to write a song for you.” So I was either a song writer who couldn’t write a score or a scorer who could not write a song! Well, I punish them later – I wrote both.
ESCAPADE was a picture with Louise Rainer and William Powell and there was a song, ‘You’re all I need’. I wouldn’t believe it today but the song was number one on Lucky Strike Hit Parade. I was so naive; I did not even know what it meant. Jack Robbins, the publisher, came to me and said, “You have number one song on Lucky Strike!” (A weekly radio program that celebrated the Top Ten song hits.) I didn’t speak well English. I knew Lucky Strike was a cigarette, but I didn’t see any connection between smoking and my song. Anyway, I was lucky – I had this first hit. And then came ‘San Francisco’ (which) was naturally a big, big moment.

Now, did you also do any of the score for that? (Herbert Stothart was musical director. Credits seemed to curiously blur in those days.)
No, just the song. As a matter of fact there were two songs. You see, at this time they had writers under contract like (Arthur) Fried and (Nacio Herb) Brown. They wrote a ballad called ‘Would You?’. They had the choice because they were big people. They naturally figured the ballad can be a big hit. The other song is kind of special material, so they say, “Let this foreigner write this special material” because they thought, “Who can write such an embarrassing song, a rousing song. But especially we were taught by our publishers that only ballads can sell. No music which has a pickup (‘Dai Di’) can sell. Got to be ‘Bum!’ on the downbeat. No minor tunes can sell – oh, lots of other things. Anyway when I was in Paris, in Berlin, my songs were very American… I thought. And they thought so too. Because. I liked American music. I used to play Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmens, and Arthur Schwartz. All these people were our idols. So they used to say about me, “Kaper is very talented but really too American.” So I came here and I said, “Ah-hah! Now…”

Perfect.
“Now I’m going to show them!”. So when I wrote ‘San Francisco’ I was sure it was a modern song. I was so corny, you see. I really thought this was ‘Sophisticated Lady’ by Duke Ellington. Well, we knew it wasn’t, but I didn’t. But because I was so naive, in good faith, it fit so good the period. Because no American would dare to write it. He would be a little ashamed to write, “Dam, bam bah-bah…” Can you imagine Jerome Kern writing it, or Gershwin? No! They would rather die – and they did.

(Laughing) And you’re still here. And it seems like such a standard, even then it sounded like it had been around for years and years. Herbert Stothart then was Head of the Music Department (of MGM) for 20-odd years.
De facto, yes – but not by title. Herbert Stothart was just an independent power. He was number one scorer of movies at MGM for many years. The producers and the high executives adored him, you know. He was what they called a ‘showman’, which was a magic word.

It was a tangible word that they, not being musicians, could deal with.
They didn’t, that’s right! For them it was easy to understand. They said, “I don’t care how well he reads music, if he can do it, let him do whatever he wants – he’s a showman!”. He delivers. And I adored him. Beautiful blue eyes, a red face. He was such a great personality on the stage. When he recorded he was really a showman. One hand was covering the left ear; here was an earphone which he turned around both ways. Everything was different but fantastic. I look today at old movies with his scores and he knew when to hit the strong chord; he knew when to stop the music. We all learned a lot from him, you know. Today we might say it’s schmaltz, still we learned a lot about the drama. There was another man called William Axt…

bronislau-kaper

He began earlier in films.
Same time also. Was before Stothart, but also (the) same time. Like Verdi and Wagner. Axt was a different type. A quiet man, no showman, no blue eyes, no high blood pressure. Very well trained, but no brilliant personality. There was a movie called AT THE BALALAIKA and Stothart didn’t want to do it… maybe he was busy. Axt was assigned to this and it was a big movie. The producers said, “We need a song, something like ‘Volga Boatman’.” So he said, “let me look around,” and a week later they have a meeting and he says, I got the song… I think.” He plays them the song and at the end there’s, quiet, a silence. (Already you know what this means). “Yes, Bill, it’s very good but you know it’s not ‘Volga Boatman’.” So he says, “Well, I try again please.” In about two weeks he plays another song. “Very good, very good. But you know… something’s missing. It is not Volga Boatman.”
This went on for three weeks. Finally they said, “Let’s call Herb Stothart. Maybe he will have an idea. And he comes there – a little late always – “Sorry I’m late boys!”. They presented him with the situation. Herb listens, and then says, “Why don’t you use ‘Volga Boatman’?” Suddenly everybody was relieved and happy, “Yes, why don’t we use ‘Volga Boatman’!”. You see, they really wanted it but they were embarrassed to say it. And again they say, “You see? You see Herb Stothart? Showman!” And poor Billy Axt was out of the picture.

Along with that reminiscence, have they ever come to you and asked to give them something like the last film you did?
(A little gravely). Yes. Yes. “We need something like ‘Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo’”. I heard it many times. Somehow I couldn’t write it. (Laughs). The worst thing happened when they used to “can” previews. You know, add a temporary score. They used to take something from the library and put it in, in order to save money, so later when the picture was all cut, you didn’t have to cut the music. There was a special man who knows the library and puts the canned music into the movie to fit it somehow. Very often the producers, after having heard the canned music for four previews, got so used to it that when you finally wrote (an) original score, they didn’t like it. You see, there is a magic about the connection of music and the film. This is the secret why people go and buy music from movies.

It brings back that first memory of the film.
Same thing as the producer, the director who sees four times the music play ‘Da-Ri, Da-Ri’ – and you play ‘Ti-Ra, T-Ra’. Well, you are wrong! So you have to be very careful. Once I did a picture where they used a piece from Offenbach in the Main Title… ‘A Flea in Her Ear’… and I knew I was in trouble. So I said, “Let’s use the Offenbach. Nothing can be as good as Offenbach.” So right away they all come, “Oh, no, no – you can write!” You know what saved me? They would have to pay for Offenbach. Not in public domain. It would cost them around three thousand dollars. I insisted, but they wouldn’t give in. And now when I wrote my music, they had to like it!

A lot of your songs and themes are very simple. You don’t go in for very elaborate constructions.
The only one which was complicated was INVITATION.

You used the theme a great deal: romantically, wistfully, with a bit of anxiety.
You know the story about this song? Well, we did a movie called A LIFE OF HER OWN with Lana Turner and there was a scene in a bar where somebody has to play some piece of music. The director was George Cukor and Johnny Green was the head of the department. They said, “What can we use there in the bar? Maybe it Chopin waltz or something?” I say, “Why Chopin waltz, why don’t I write a piece?” So they looked at each other kind of suspicious, “O.K., you want to write a piece? Compete with a Chopin waltz.” I say, “Yes, I write a piece.” I was getting fresh already then.

You’d been there a few years.
Yeah, I knew already. I wouldn’t give away a chance to write. So a week later we meet and they said kind of shyly, tentatively, “You have any idea of what you’re going to write?” I said, “I already wrote it.” And I played: “Dah-Dah Dee-Dee, Dah Dee Dah Dah – Dah Dah Dah”… A LIFE OF HER OWN… They liked it very much and it was in the picture in a scene played on piano by Jakob Gimpel, a great pianist, a friend of mine who still plays it. The picture was a complete disaster, you know – but we started getting calls.
So very soon after this they did a movie with Dorothy Maguire and we decided to put it in this picture. That’s why I used it so often: because I knew already I had something. And the moment we did this picture, we got immediately five or six recordings; Percy Faith, Victor Young, and others. And because the film was called INVITATION, we called the song ‘Invitation’. After the movie, Paul Webster wrote the lyrics, which are very nice but nobody knows them.

Well, it worked beautifully because the story was rather depressing (Dorothy Maguire plays a woman with an unnamed incurable illness whose husband married her out of some pity and a job offer from her father) and it kept it a little lighter, a little up.
A little hope there, yes. I say it without conceit, but I think that INVITATION started a certain trend of this kind of sophisticated harmonies in instrumental music. The best proof is that it is very difficult for the average pianist to play by ear. I wrote another song later called ‘Gloria’ for BUTTERFIELD 8 and it also has a little bit of this flair.
You know, I like it when you have a long picture, because already you have so many things happen, so much color and so many changes in time; people mature within the movie and they go through so many things. Now I had the most wonderful time writing music for GREEN DOLPHIN STREET – I really loved working. Every little sequence; a carriage coming into town, I was kind of playing with it, improvising almost. I could play any kind of music I wanted.

I’ve had a difficult time convincing some jazz buffs that it wasn’t written as a jazz piece.
(Beaming) I know…

It became such a standard. It must be a beautiful thing to see something evolve like that.
And it was very strange because I never read DOWNBEAT magazine. We used to have meetings at MGM in the music department and Andre Previn was on the staff and he was usually sitting there reading DOWNBEAT magazine. And suddenly he whispers to me, “Miles Davis recorded GREEN DOLPHIN STREET”. So I said, “So what?”. He says, “That means that in the next three months you have fifty recordings of GREEN DOLPHIN STREET.” And then it started.

GREEN MANSIONS is a rather strange film… How did the idea to work with Villa-Lobos come about?
That’s kind of a CIA story… (Laughs). Mel Ferrer was the director of the movie and I think this was a kind of political move because he was married to Audrey Hepburn. Not that at this time he was a known or good director but a family affair; a little of this give a little, take a little… (Earlier), he met Villa-Lobos and heard some of his music and like some directors who have preconceived ideas; he has to have Villa-Lobos music. When MGM decided to do it, then Mel convinced them, persuaded them to buy music of Villa-Lobos. A typical “amateur deal”, because how can you buy music? You don’t know what you buy! You don’t know what you’re going to play in the movie; how much you’re going to use; who’s going to do it.
Then the film finally came into existence and they say, “Well, Mr. Lobos, when are you going to come and do the movie?” He says, “Me, come and do a movie? I don’t do music for a film! I give you my music and you just put it in your picture.” Very proudly, but very silly. He would not know where to begin. Now big troubles. Sol Siegel, head of the studio, came to me and said, “Listen. Here is the situation; we want you to do the movie.” So I said, “I don’t want to do a picture with Villa-Lobos. You use his music and get an arranger.” He says, “No, no, no. You do the score. You use as much of his music as you want – just to keep the contract.”
The result was I wrote the score, and my credit said, “Musical Score by Bronislau Kaper, Incidental Music by Villa-Lobos, Song by Bronislau Kaper and Mack David” – you know, the song (sung) by Tony Perkins. Mr. Lobos came to Hollywood and he gave me the dirtiest look – even before I did the picture. Already the fact that I’m going to touch his holy music made him hate me. We had a picture taken. I’m smiling and he isn’t.

You did only one science-fiction film called THEM! It came out in the middle of the fifties and you treated it differently from what seemed like the other dozen S-F films that opened every week.
I treated it not like a science picture. I treated it like a real menace. I was getting tired of the usual effects. I treated it as an action movie, you know, “Boom-Bang!” Oh, you should have heard this music on the stage – it was really good. And I wrote a ‘Fugue’ which was out of the picture later.

For which part?
I forget. It was a ‘Fugue for Ants’. Just for fun; I knew it was going to be out of the picture, but I wrote it for kicks. Took me about four days to write it. Very chromatic too (Mimics the patterns which sound like groups of ants skittering along). I remember the musicians liked it. Ray Heindorf conducted it. Absolute genius for conducting movie music. Absolute genius! He’s also a great arranger. When I came to this town Harry Warren played for me big production numbers of his songs – symphonic, made by Heindorf. It was so great Harry Warren believed he wrote it himself.
Oh, but the funny thing happened to LORD JIM. There was a question of doing this kind of music (Cambodian) and get a couple of the instruments, and get the people who can play it. And we were absolutely at a loss. I didn’t know where to start! Then somebody said, “I know there are two French students who know Indochinese music. They live in Paris. Maybe we can get the instruments in the Indochinese Embassy in Amsterdam.” I mean, there were sleepless nights. Well, I went to Cambodia to do research and to listen to music. Terrible. Absolutely impossible. And I had auditions of people; little groups. The dullest thing you can imagine. So then I came back and I talked to a former agent of mine, Abe Meyer, who suggested I contact Monty Hood, the Head of Ethnic Music at UCLA. I called him and found that he knew me; we (had) met at Ernest Toch’s. I came to him and he took me downstairs to the Gamolin room. I thought I was dreaming. I had to pinch myself. There were all the instruments – Java, Bali, whatever you want – not to mention Thailand. Not Cambodia. But it made no difference to me because the fact that we were shooting in Cambodia did not mean the story took place in Cambodia. It just had to be any part of Indochina.
So after analysing them all, I took certain elements of Bali and Java. But I saw not only the instruments; they had an orchestra for this music. Forty people or thirty-six who would rehearse every week and they knew how to play them. Now, I went like to school. Monty Hood and his assistant taught me how to write all the instruments. I took orchestration lessons in Gamolin. I wrote two pieces. One was a slow piece, one was a fast one. They were supposed to play in the evening and I was chicken: I didn’t want to go. The next morning I call, “How did it go?” He said, “The slow piece went like a charm; the fast piece is impossible to play.” I made a mistake. For one instrument I thought they had two hammers. They had only one. So I rewrote it, but I learned. It was really fantastic how lucky I was, able to find those people after I was looking for them in Paris, in Holland. Suddenly here, under my nose. I liked to work on LORD JIM. Big scope. I recorded in London. Wonderful orchestra.

Are there any films you wish you had been associated with?
Yes, but I can’t think offhand. Sometimes I see a movie and I say, “Gee! Why couldn’t I have done this picture?” I don’t very often think about pictures I wish I would have done, but there are some songs. One of the songs is Victor Young’s ‘Stella by Starlight’. Every time I hear it I say, “What happened to me? Where was I? Why didn’t I write this song?” It’s too late now.

What would you like to do that you haven’t done? Is there anything you haven’t done?
Oh yes! I would like to write music – good music. When you’re in movies, every picture takes three months of your life and then you have no time, not only to compose; you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to do anything. To be at a studio under contract is nice for security (if there is such a thing), but it really makes you a slave of your profession, which you should not be.

It makes you hunger for all aspects of music.
For freedom! Music, sports, reading, even writing songs. Now song writers are free. They just walk around and get together, have a few drinks, smoke and write songs. That’s nice. And if they’re tired they go to Santa Barbara, or to Mexico, or to Las Vegas for two days. You cannot do it when you’re at a studio. If you leave for two days, even if they’ve nothing to do for you, they look for you and say, “Where have you been?” Is that a question to ask a grownup man? I think it’s terrible.

You’re really not semi-retired because you’re very active personally.
I’m not only this. I get scripts to read, I have plays to read and projects with producers and all this. But I tell you, you come to a certain time in your life when you do not want to be judged by other people. Evaluated, you see? That’s terrible. If you are in movies, I don’t care who you are, you can be the greatest composer in the world…

But you’ll be judged on that one film.
You’ll be judged while you are writing. You will have to play for somebody or the producer or a director who know nothing about their profession, who never did anything in their life, not even one television show – suddenly they are entitled to say, “I don’t know what I want.” Now, who are they to judge my work? I resent it, I don’t want it. I’ve been asked recently by people, “Why don’t you work in movies?” I say there’s nothing that really attracts me terribly. If it would attract me very much, I would even give in a little and let the people say what they think of my music (Laughs).

Well, I hope before too long you find a good script and a good director. But if you don’t, continue doing those things you never could before.
I’m very busy now with the Los Angeles Music Center. I’m now on the Board of Directors of the Symphony and I live in a different world. I live in a world of friends, musicians, where I don’t have to put my level down. People, with whom I have a real, complete understanding. Like Zuben Mehta, Daniel Barenboim, Zuckerman – all those people… Arthur Rubenstein, still one of the greatest friends of mine. I adore these people. We sit and talk and play.

The important thing is you enjoy yourself, as you have all these years.
I’m very happy. I don’t regret. You know, 28 years at MGM, it was a long, long time. There was a man who worked I think 40 years at Warner’s and one day he came home and said to his wife, “They fired me.” And the wife said, “I always knew it was not a steady job.”

Editor’s Note

Though some words in Bronislau Kaper’s speech seem to be left out, it’s the way he talks. The interviewer wanted to retain that feeling.

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